"DEMOCRATS REMADE THEMSELVES as the black people's party."
Suppose former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said that. What would happen? Before you could say, "Jesse Jackson's next press conference," Gingrich would deny the remark, say he was misquoted, and say it was taken out of context, before finally apologizing.
Well, a national leader did make a similar remark. NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, in a recent speech, said, "Republicans remade themselves as the white people's party."
Yet in a typical national election, the "white vote" splits fairly evenly between Democrat and Republican. Minorities and single women tip the scales.
As a percentage, far more whites vote Democrat than blacks vote Republican. Blacks show more loyalty to a party—in this case, Democratic—than does any group in America. Clinton's job-approval rating among blacks hovers around 90 percent. So, the hypothetical Newt Gingrich remark, calling the Democratic Party the "black people's party," would have been far more accurate than Julian Bond's remark about Republicans and white people.
But there's more. Bond gave a ringing defense of affirmative action, stating that "affirmative action made the black middle class . . . affirmative action helped a third of all blacks."
In their book, America in Black and White, Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom show that the black middle class existed and grew well before affirmative action.
Moreover, they point out that affirmative action did not accelerate the growth of the black middle class.
And economist Thomas Sowell recently wrote, "Yet the rapid growth of that [black] middle class began even before the civil-rights revolution of the 1960s, much less the racial quotas and preferences that began in the 1970s.
"The rise of blacks into professional and similar occupations was faster in the five years preceding passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than in the five years following its passage."
Bond is, quite simply, wrong. But this blind belief—no affirmative action, no black middle class—dominates contemporary thinking among "black leaders" and many other liberals. This mistaken view explains the almost pathological defense of big government and the indifference toward the unfair middle-class tax burden. After all, but for government's benevolence, where would blacks be?
Note that Bond says a third of all blacks owe affirmative action. Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell places the figure at 100 percent: "Everybody who's a person of color in this country has benefited from affirmative action. There has not been anybody who has gotten into college on their own, nobody who's gotten a job on their own, no one who's prospered as a businessman or a businesswoman on their own without affirmative action."
Thirty-three percent vs. 100 percent? Pretty big difference. But why quibble?
Now, no speech by a "black leader" seems complete without the obligatory attack on Ronald Reagan. Bond said, "Then, Reagan removed government from every aspect of American life. They attempted to destroy all the laws that say America should be bias-free." Reagan removed government from every aspect of American life? Hey, despite promises, the Gip couldn't even shut down the Departments of Energy and Education. Social spending under Ronald Reagan went up, not down.
If Bond means that Reagan's policies hurt black people, wrong again. Under Reagan, black adult unemployment fell faster than did white unemployment. Black teenage unemployment fell faster than did white teenage unemployment.
And blacks started businesses at a rate faster than did whites, with the pace of revenues exceeding that of whites. In 1981, the nation's poverty rate stood at 14 percent. It declined to 11.6 percent in 1988, Reagan's last year in office.
Republicans, the white people's party? Nearly half of all adults own stock, either directly or through some investment vehicle like a 401K. This means that Americans of all races have a stake in strong, prosperous, growing companies. Since Republicans tax and regulate less—good things for the corporate bottom line—who is looking out for the little guy?
Despite the dastardly Reagan, the black middle class grew. What does this say? It confirms Barbara Bush's remark, "What happens in your house is more important than what happens in the White House."
So, Bond's pessimism is unwarranted. Worse than pessimism, however, is wasted energy. The tough problems—teen pregnancy, under-performing schools, crime—get slighted in favor of the gratifying (but ultimately unproductive) kicking of Ronald Reagan and the Republicans.
The great black singer Joe Williams just died. Like many of his black contemporaries, he toiled in relative obscurity until his mid-30s, never reaching the status of other, white crooners. When asked whether he felt bitter, Williams said, "A friend of mine once said that hate is too important an emotion to waste on someone you don't like."
You know, like Republicans.
©1999, Creators Syndicate